Half a dozen juveniles stand together outside the back of Walmart. A can of duster, stolen from the store is passed around. One by one, they take a hit from the can. Normally used to clean electronics, the dusters key ingredient, difluoroethane, gets the teens temporarily high.
As some of the teens get inebriated off the duster, others are already drunk off alcohol and cough syrup or high on marijuana.
While people have been abusing these
substances for years, Payson police officials say they have seen a resurgence in teen “huffing” and substance abuse in the last four months. One teen was even admitted to the hospital two times after overdosing on cough syrup.
And police say teens are becoming more brazen in their use.
Police watched from their patrol vehicle as a teen stumbled out of a park bathroom holding a can of duster to his nose — inhaling twice from the can. When they went into the bathroom, police found a group of teens getting high off the cleaner.
Difluoroethane, said Sgt. Jason Hazelo, often knocks people out for a minute.
However, sometimes “the kids don’t wake up,” he said.
Robitussin can also prove fatal, he said. When teens take enough of it, they hallucinate. But the substance also “causes major issues in the body” including elevating blood pressure and causing some to have a stroke.
To curtail abuse, stores like Walgreens and Walmart are moving products used for huffing behind the counter. But police say there are still products on the shelves that teens use.
Studies say the majority of “huffers” are eighth-graders, with 8.1 percent of students reporting use.
“National and state surveys report that inhalant abuse reaches its peak at some point during the seventh- through ninth-grades,” according to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
On Jan. 21, three teens, ages 14, 16 and 17, were arrested after police found them huffing behind Walmart.
A witness said he watched roughly six juveniles huff the duster around 5:30 p.m. When police arrived, three of the teens were still behind the store, a can of duster at their feet.
The 16-year-old told Officer Bryan Watson that he was intoxicated and had smoked marijuana.
Back at the police station, the teen said he had drank a tenth of a bottle of vodka, three-fourths of a 40 oz. beer, a bottle of Robitussin and smoked four or five bowls of marijuana.
A Breathalyzer test revealed the teen had a blood alcohol content of .104 and his urine test tested positive for THC (a derivative of marijuana) and opiates.
The teen said he stole the cough syrup from the store and got the duster from “some other people.”
The 14-year-old female told Watson she had used the duster, but had not been drinking.
Watson found cigarettes in the girl’s jacket. She was later released to her parents and charged with possession of an inhalant toxic substance and possession of tobacco.
The 17-year-old told Watson he had taken a dozen shots of vodka since noon that day and smoked marijuana.
A Breathalyzer test revealed the teen had a blood alcohol content of .105 and a urine test tested positive for THC.
Both the 17- and 16-year-old were taken to the emergency room and then transported to the Gila County juvenile detention facility in Globe since both are on probation. Both were later charged with several felonies.